Writing for Hooniverse often takes me to strange and dangerous places, like the parking lot of an Applebee’s. But it wasn’t the peppery smell of the 1,420 calorie Applebee’s Quesadilla Burger, or the tangy aroma of the 1,340 calorie Cheeseburger Sliders with Applewood Smoked Bacon that drew me there, delicious though they may be. Rather, it was the sight of this first-generation Jeep Wagoneer. Or upon closer inspection, a later Wagoneer retrofitted with a first-generation front fascia. Now, I’m not really a fan of lifted anything, but there was something very compelling about this truck, something that’s missing from the SUVs of today. The front fascia alone is a piece of industrial design that probably wouldn’t be allowed in our day and age, simply because it looks menacing enough to make dogs faint and infants cry. And that is precisely what makes it so cool today.
Long before Wagoneers became the hottest thing to keep at your manse on the Cape, to make runs into town to pick up “provisions” for the upcoming sail with Tad, Cabot, Topper, Garrett, Lander, Kitty, and Mackenzie (I have more of these, by the way), Jeeps were actually working vehicles and were used as such. First put into production in 1962 in pickup form, the Gladiator premiered with a 3.8 liter Tornado engine making just over 140bhp. The Wagoneer joined the lineup the year after that, when Willys became the Kaiser Jeep Corporation, and a couple years later AMC’s 5.4 liter V8 became optional. And in 1971 a slightly softer (less manly, according to expert assessments) front fascia was unveiled. But those old Jeeps were almost never babied, and along with the Gladiator the first-generation Wagoneers were just used up and then left out to rot out in the woods, next to a 1970 Shasta LoFlyte camper that’s now a trendy hotel and spa for raccoons.
I find it that the press often overlooks the first-generation Wagoneer when talking about the forefathers of the modern SUV, in favor of the Range Rover. The Rangie, lest we forget, came out in 1970, a full eight years after the Wagoneer went on sale. But since the Rangie is the media darling and gets tons of screentime in film and television, it’s what most people think when talking about the forerunners of the SUV (if they think about that sort of thing at all). That, and a certain TV host takes every opportunity to showcase the Range Rover as the greatest four by four in the wuuuhld!
Even though the Wagoneer stayed in production for 29 years without any major changes, it’s really the very latest Wagoneers that enjoy a following, rather than the very first examples. And that right there tends to betray the reason for the current fashion of owning a Grand Wagoneer with faux wood trim; not collectibility, but fashionability and ease of use. The later Grand Wagoneers will always be collectibles, but I am sure we would all agree that the audience and market values for first-generation and last-generation Wagoneers of the same platform are quite different.
Would you prefer to restore a first-gen Wagoneer to stock specification, or is it fair game for restomodding?
[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jay Ramey]